In the juvenile justice context, a runaway refers to a child under the age of 18 who has left their home or guardian without permission and is at risk of harm or exploitation.
When a juvenile leaves their home or guardian without permission, it is considered a status offense, meaning that it is an act that is only illegal because the individual is a minor. Runaway behavior can put a child at risk of harm, such as exposure to violence, sexual exploitation, or substance abuse. As such, it is important for authorities to intervene and ensure the safety of the child.
Once a juvenile is reported as a runaway, law enforcement and social service agencies may become involved in locating the child and ensuring their safety. The authorities may conduct an investigation to determine why the child ran away and whether any abuse or neglect was involved.
Depending on the circumstances of the runaway, various interventions may be used. For example, if a child has a stable home environment but is experiencing conflict with their family, family therapy or counseling may be recommended. If a child has run away due to abuse or neglect, they may be placed in protective custody and removed from the home. In some cases, a juvenile may be placed in a temporary shelter or foster care.
Runaway behavior is often a sign of underlying issues, such as family conflict, mental health issues, or substance abuse. As such, interventions may also include counseling, therapy, or substance abuse treatment. It is important for authorities to address these underlying issues to prevent further runaway behavior and to ensure the safety and well-being of the child.